The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
Lately I've been wanting to re-read some old favorites, and I picked up The Eyre Affair. I love the Thursday Next books but haven't re-read them at all, and I'd forgotten a lot!
Thursday is a Special Operations officer in the Literary Fraud division--she tracks down counterfeit Cardenios and the like. In the alternate Britain she lives in, the Crimean War has been going on for over 100 years, genetic sequencing has allowed everyone to have dodos and thylacines for pets, and literature is a national obsession. Radical Marlovians firebomb Baconian meetings, thousands of people have changed their names to Percy Shelley or John Milton, that sort of thing.
The super-criminal genius Acheron Hades has stolen both Thursday's Uncle Mycroft and the manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit. With Mycroft's invention that allows entry into books, he plans to kill off beloved literary characters until the ransom is paid. And Jane Eyre is his next victim!
The whole thing is just a barefoot romp through the meadows of literature, history, and general weirdness. Bibliophiles can't not love it.
My favorite joke is probably the one where a John Keats gets mugged by a Percy Shelley, who leaves a tract on atheism behind him. What's yours?